The Shrewsbury Drapers Company 1462-2017 The Legacy

8th September 2017


The Shrewsbury Drapers Company 1462 – 2017 The legacy

A new book written by Nigel J Hinton M.A. explores the 555 year history of the Shrewsbury Drapers Company from its establishment in 1462.

Originally founded as a guild of The Holy Trinity it became the guild for the wool merchants of Shrewsbury by charter from Edward IV. They built and maintained almshouses and this charitable work has continued to today. Now the Company operates as a social housing charity on four sites in Shrewsbury, with fifty residents. The Company also promotes an annual textile design competition for adults, students and school age children.

The book examines the early wool trade in the Marches region and the rise of some of the wool merchants who established the Shrewsbury Drapers Company. The wool and later the Welsh woollen cloth trade were important to the local and national economy, as movement of goods generated tolls, which were a key source of revenue for town and Crown.

The Shrewsbury traders did not restrict their operations to the UK and were active in Europe and used “livres” to finance this international trade, these functioned as a currency similar to bitcoins today.

As middlemen they ruthlessly dominated the trade in the Marches region and became the predominant guild of the region in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they lobbied parliament to give them a monopoly and then when this did not succeed they refused to buy wool from the Welsh markets. Their wealth enabled them to operate as money lenders, bankers and their families invested in the West Indies plantations and the development of North America.

With this predominance came social responsibility and they mustered in preparation for the invasion by the Spanish Amada and were assigned to be part of Queen Elizabeth`s personal guard in the event of invasion.   

 In the eighteenth century the trade declined and some of the drapers found occupation in the new industries in Ironbridge with investments in porcelain and ironworks.

They left their mark in the street names and buildings in the town and the county of Shropshire and built a new Drapers Hall. It is unique as it remains the only town guildhalls in the hands of the original company. It is now open as a restaurant and visitors can dine on some of the original furniture from the early seventeenth century.

The book concludes with chapters on the activities of the modern drapers including relationships with other city guilds. The most important work remains housing and the story shows how a group of determined amateurs, battled with red tape and government bureaucracy to plan and build twenty five new homes for residents at Drapers Place, in Shrewsbury. This was formally opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester on 14th June 2017.

The Shrewsbury Drapers Company 1462 – 2017 The legacy

The book has 232 pages and 23 colour plates and 28 black and white illustrations. There are contributions from the Rev Ian Ross, former trustee of The Holy Cross Almshouses, and Mr Robert Strick former clerk of the London Drapers Company. The book is published by YouCaxton and will be available in early September in local bookshops and via the website

Nigel Hinton M.A. F.C.A is a local historian who lives in Shrewsbury. He was master of the Shrewsbury Drapers Company in 2011/12. He is a director of Victoria County History (Shropshire) Limited and studied at the University of Birmingham and gained an M.A. in West Midlands History in 2014.

He has also written Historical Hostelries with David Trumper. Silhouette, the history of an innovative Shropshire company and Baa Baa Blodwyn a short history of the wool trade in Shrewsbury for young people. is a historic manufacturing website setup by Nigel in 2006 with contributions from others researching manufacturing history in Shrewsbury.

More – Nigel J Hinton - 01743 353657 or 07866 522781 -


The new book will be launched at

Drapers Hall, St Mary's Pl, Shrewsbury SY1 1DZ

Friday 8th September 2017

11.00   Subscribers & Press and VIP, 12.00 General public





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